Spanish hamlet 'Kill Jews Fort' to vote on name change

Mon May 19, 2014 9:24am EDT
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By Sarah Morris

MADRID (Reuters) - The village of Castrillo Matajudios in northern Spain will vote on Sunday on whether to change the name it has had for 400 years and purge a vestige of the religious persecution meted out by the Roman Catholic Inquisition.

The name in English means Kill Jews Fort.

Village Mayor Lorenzo Rodriguez has led the drive to rename it Castrillo Mota Judios, or Hill of Jews.

"We've been labeled as being a village where Jewish people are killed, accused of being anti-semitic. The reality is this is a village descended from a Jewish community," Rodriguez said.

The village of ancient stone houses surrounded by fields near the city of Burgos is home to 56 mostly elderly people. They will cast their ballot on the same day as European-wide elections.

Rodriguez's campaign also takes place as the Spanish government is trying to make amends for religious persecution during the Inquisition, proposing a law to grant nationality to descendants of Sephardic Jews driven out of Spain.

The town's name dates to the period after Catholic monarchs King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella ordered the expulsion of Jews in 1492.

In the Middle Ages, Jews, Muslims and Christians co-existed in cities throughout what is now Spain, with varying degrees of tolerance and tension. That ended with the expulsion and forced conversion of Jews and Muslims in the 1400s.   Continued...

A sign with the name of the village of Castrillo Matajudios (Kill Jews Fort) is seen near its entrance in northern Spain May 16, 2014.  REUTERS/Ricardo Ordonez